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A BUSY YEAR FOR DAVID MURPHY

David Murphy has been a familiar face at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club and 2016 will be no different. Despite speculation over the winter as to whether his contract had ended and his time as a professional cricketer had come to an end, he is currently to be found training hard with the rest of the squad. Although this year, things are going to get a lot tougher for the 26 year old Scottish International as he begins to plan for the future. 'Murph' joined the Northamptonshire Academy in 2007 at the age of 17. He had been playing in his home county of Hertfordshire and came along to one of the Academy's Centre of Excellence days. David Ripley had just taken over as Head Academy Coach and obviously spotted potential talent.

"It was pretty obvious from the start that David was a highly skilled wicket keeper and it was clear that he had a future in cricket. He was perhaps a little on the unfit side but he took constructive criticism on board and immediately went away to work on it. That kind of sums him up"

Like a few other graduates of the Academy, he has remained with the club ever since playing consistently for the second XI and made his first XI debut in 2009. In 2013 he played in every T20 match including of course, the infamous, glorious final. That was also a memorable year for David, making his international debut and playing in four T20 squads for Scotland.

But, in keeping with the rollercoaster life of a sportsman, 2014 was not so good with injury dominating the season. "It started with torn ligaments in my thumb which is a pretty common keeping injury. It's definitely worse than a broken finger and it took a long time to heal. Not long after, a broke a finger in that same hand and it seemed like that pretty much wiped out my season. It was great to get back to some first team action in 2015, especially with the bat."

And with the bat he certainly saw some action finishing the season on 135 not out against Surrey at the Oval. "A score like that is something I should have achieved some time ago and started to think that perhaps it might not be coming. To score like that at the Oval was a pretty special feeling and we escaped with a draw too so there were a few beers on the coach home." Murph also enjoyed a couple of memorable days at the County Ground when the Aussies came to play. "I opened the batting which was a novel experience but funnily enough I wasn't that nervous. I was partly expecting 2015 to be my last year of playing cricket so the pressure was off and I just walked out to enjoy myself. It was a great game, hugely entertaining for the crowd and to score 396 was very satisfying."

Spare time in 2014 due to injury meant that David had time to consider his future and to think about life after cricket. With the help of Charlie Mulraine at the PCA, he undertook a variety of work experience placements with property developers, corporate event planning, marketers and business development companies and two with law firms which gave David direction and a future in law became the focus. "I took loads of advice from friends in the sector, undertook lots of research and had plenty of conversations with the PCA and decided to look into a career in law. So I started the long process of applying for training contracts, and after a few 'nos' I was invited to an interview with a local firm, Howes Percival. It took place on the morning of a second XI game which was interesting but I obviously managed to impress them as two days letter, an offer letter arrived in the post and I accepted immediately."

With a future now planned, it came as some surprise that a few weeks later, Rips told Murph that Northants were keen to offer him another year's contract. "I was so eager to do both as deep down I wasn't really ready to give up on cricket."

Combining studying and a professional sporting career isn't something new to David. He completed a undergraduate degree in politics at Loughborough University whilst part of the Northants Academy which he admits was a juggling act but was something he got used to. Rather than complete his Graduate Diploma in Law in a single year, he will spread it over two years to accommodate playing cricket which, luckily for David, Howes Percival were happy to agree to.

The studies started in January of this year and David spends one day a week in London at the BPP university. "It's going to be a bit of a juggling act to fit tutorials around the fixture list but cricket will come first. I'm part of the squad and I won't be letting them down." promises David "Although I have to say that I was pretty relieved to see that my exams don't fall on any match days!" The course is partially funded by a PCA Education Grant. Charlie Mulraine from the PCA explained, "The PCA's Education Funding Grants are all about helping people like Murph develop career options alongside their cricket. All players are able to access 50% funding for qualifications and vocational training up to £1,500. It's great to hear how this has helped ease some of the pressure for Murph concerning the future."

It's a matter of weeks now until the first warm up games begin. David will be taking his books on the road no doubt? "I'm hoping I'll be setting a good example to some of the younger players! The club and the rest of the lads have been really supportive so I don't think I'll get too much stick about having my nose in a book at every opportunity. They all know how much this means to me." This is a sentiment echoed by Rips, "I've no doubt whatsoever that he will manage his studies whilst playing for the club. Any job we need him to do, we'll ask him and he'll get on with it. I know he'll be ready."

In the meantime David will be hoping for some chances in the first team this season. "My aim is to pick up where I left off and keep scoring those runs and to re-establish myself as one of the better wicket keepers. But I'm just going to try and enjoy things; there's no pressure on my shoulders and its nice to play with a bit more freedom. We're training really hard at the moment as the coaches have ramped it up a bit. We're doing a lot more batting circuits and our new strength and conditioning coach has fitted in really well. There's a really good feeling around the place; everyone is excited and looking forward to having a chance at winningsome trophies"

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